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Little change expected in next year's budget

Posted: April 2, 2013 - 5:51pm

Next year’s Columbia County budget will show a spending increase of less than 1 percent with revenue expected to rise by 2 percent or less.

Commissioners held a joint budget committee meeting Tuesday to look through the inch-thick budget for 2013-14, prepared after department heads and elected officials spent the past few weeks revising their proposals for the coming fiscal year.

The total budget shows expenses projected to be $56.4 million, funded by revenues of $57.6 million.

“It’s really not a whole lot different from last year, just a .07 percent above last year’s budget,” Scott said. “You’ll see a little increase for personnel – there’s a total of 10 positions in the general fund that people have asked for, but some of those are a result of restructuring.”

That includes three new positions for the library, created when Columbia County joined Lincoln and Warren counties in a new state library district. Rather than Columbia County paying $130,000 to the state system for services, the state now helps fund the new district.

That results in a $110,000 net increase in county funding after the three new positions are paid for, Johnson said.

Overall, the county’s tax digest is expected to grow just 2 percent, slightly less than last year’s 3 percent growth, Johnson said.

“We realize that, which is the reason the expenditures are what they are,” he said. “We have always underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses. We just take a conservative approach to the budget to make sure we don’t have anything catastrophic happen. It’s a very conservative budget.”

District 2 Commission Trey Allen said the budget reflects exemplary work from the county employees.

“As you look through all these numbers and percentages, you lose sight of the fact that in a county with over 50 percent growth in the last decade, our expenses this year are a .07 percent increase,” he said. “That is overwhelming to me. I applaud everyone involved.”

The budget doesn’t include any pay increases for employees, said County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, but raises could be included once the tax digest numbers are more firmly established.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 7 at the Evans Government Center Auditorium prior to the county commission meeting. Another joint budget committee meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. May 21, with budget adoption set for June 4.

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